Advice on Moving from New York to London(25 Posts)
My husband, 16 month old daughter and our dog will be relocating (with my husband's employer) to London at the beginning of March 2017. I am a SAHM and my husband will be working near Victoria station. We have short term housing in Chiswick, but are unsure of where we would like to settle long term. We will be renting with a budget up to £4700 pcm. We would like to have 3-4 bedrooms with some private garden space. We are a bit concerned about the state schooling catchment topic - our daughter is young now, but we hope to find a place we can stay for several years and hope to send her to an outstanding state school. Also, being near parks/green space is important to us. We may eventually have a car, but do not plan on driving daily.
Where would you recommend we look long-term? We have been looking (online) in Richmond, Barnes and Twickenham (a bit further from central London than we'd ideally like to be) but have concerns about the aircraft noise. We've also been looking in Chiswick. We are open to living closer to central London as well, but do not think we can get the space that we'd want there with our budget.
Any advice/insight you can provide on these areas or suggestions for other areas to look would be wonderful. Thank you!
How exciting! Would you consider North London? Crouch end? Lovely area, village feel & a great primary school: coleridge primary.
Or South East London on Victoria train line - herne hill, dulwich etc. lovely large houses in budget. Would only be 15mins on train into Victoria. Large parks - brockwell park If you go on rightmove, there's a tab for schools which lists closest schools with mist recent ofsted (though pinch of salt required - a recent 'good' can be worth as much at least as an out of date 'outstanding'). Camberwell/parts of forest hill good too - near horn unan museum/gardens. Crystal Palace has lovely parts too.
Honestly I wouldn't do it unless his company was going to pay for private fees. The UK system starts a year younger than the US and is far more formal. The class sizes are much bigger and most London State schools are having their budgets slashed. If your American I'd at least want the option of private being paid for and most companies will.
Class sizes limited by law to 30 in reception/key stage 1 (so until about 7) and then in my experience, possibly 32 in a class for 7-11.
Reception not especially formal as far as I could see in the schools my children attended. Reception/early years is learning through play. More formal in year 1 but still classrooms with desks in clusters and a fair amount of movement within smaller groups with teacher /teaching assistant.
Though agree - budgets going to be seriously tight as funding cut, particularly in London.
Clapham was another thought - quite village-y but close to central London. Nappy valley. Clapham Common.
NYC public schools run at about 22 kids per class in kindergarten (U.K. Equivalent of year 1). You need to be comfortable with a preschool (reception) class of 30 because in london they are all to the gills. It's a full day from 9ish to 3:30. It's very very different from the US.
And then there's catchment. If you decide to move into a house for a particular school you need to look up the last distance offered for that school (council website). It changes every year sometimes dramatically. So one year a house would be in for a particular school the next year it's out. London distances can be tiny. We bought our house three years ago and were inside the "catchment" or last distance offered for two outstanding primaries. The year we applied we got nothing in our neighbourhood. We were offered a dire school two bus changes away. I had a private school back up and now we rather grudgingly pay fees. I drive past six primary schools to get our son to school! We missed by 30 meters on last distance offered and we've gone down not up the waitlist!
Do your homework and see how you feel but it is a vastly different system. Hampstead is really nice. Has great open space, tube, cafes and good private/state school options.
Thank you all for your helpful responses!
neighbourhoodwitch - Yes, we would also consider North London. We have heard great things about Highgate and have looked there on rightmove, but saw very few listings, at least in our budget. I will look into Couch End though, thank you! Do you have any thoughts on Muswell Hill? Saw some great houses there, but a bit concerned about how far they are from the tube/train (most 0.8 mile).
Pooka - Have only looked briefly in Dulwich, but will check it out again along with the other areas you listed. Thank you for the ofsted rating tip - perhaps I've been putting too much weight on those without thinking about how out-dated they may be...
DonkeyofDoom - really appreciate your insight. Unfortunately the move is not optional and his company will not pay for schooling. Still trying to be optimistic about things after getting past the stress of it all. We did make a trip there last summer to check things out and found London to be such a lovely place overall with very friendly people. We are mostly concerned about finding the right area/community for us, and the school issue is probably at the top of the list in terms of stress. As you've pointed out it seems to be very different from the US and quite complicated/exhausting (changing catchment, ofsted rating, over-crowded...).
I would choose Barnes with a child of that age. Lots of toddler activities on your doorstep, it's pretty and feels safe. The houses in catchment for Barnes Primary are small but sweet.
Feel free to PM me about Muswell Hill - that's where we live and didn't get a school place....but i can share what I know. You'll get a huge house in MH for that budget. You can get a 4-5 bed terrace for £3k.
I live near Highgate and I can say it's a great. We are very close to stations, shops, many schools in under a mile and lots of Greenland. It is quite expensive around here. If you need anymore details I'd be happy to chat.
Something like this might work?
It's currently in catchment for Muswell Hill Primary. It's a few minutes from Ally Pally with great outdoor parks/fields/rail trail. It looks far from the Piccadilly but there's buses at the bottom of the street that go every 2-4 minutes straight there during rush hour. We live very close to here and my husband uses the Piccadilly line to get to south Ken every. It takes him 40 minutes. Your husband would be quicker to Victoria. MH is a lovely community.
If you don't already have it download city mapper to figure out travel times.
I'd go south of the river for a commute into Victoria - you'll get more for your money and it's heaving with families with small children. Have a look at Clapham, Balham, Earlsfield, Herne Hill, Dulwich for starters
Yes, Highgate is lovely but I am not sure there is a state school there (but there are private schools). To me, anyway, it is 'older' than other areas (more for older people I mean), but it is lovely/ pretty and quite small. Hampstead (a couple of miles away) is absolutely gorgeous but I cannot comment on schools there but it is a stunning area.
Crouch End is great - great for families, lots of them there. There is no tube but there are buses to Archway & Finsbury Park stations (not far at all), and trains to the City, so it is pretty well connected, transport-wise. So lovely for families and a fabulous community.
Muswell Hill is really lovely too, but possibly you'd have to look at transport links from there. Muswell Hill Primary is meant to be great but like all these schools, you'd have to check on the catchment area.
I just love all North London - lots of parks and Hampstead Heath, of course - just gorgeous!
Good luck with your research etc. x
would you/he consider a commute? That budget will go far further in the 'burbs and school issues may not be quite so frantic. Trains go into Victoria from Surrey, Kent and Sussex. There have been major issues on some train services that serve Victoria but you could also consider trains on the line to Waterloo and then a very quick tube ride from Vauxhall to Victoria. This opens up various areas of Surrey (including the Cobham area which is full of expat Americans! - Look up American Women of Surrey) where your c.£4000 pcm can get you any number of really nice large houses with gardens like this as an example
I'm in Chiswick with a toddler at home, pm me if you need to pick someone's brain concerning toddler groups etc
Herne Hill, Dulwich Village, it is easy commute to Victoria and there are very good schools, lots of green areas, parks and sports facilities for children.
I second Barnes or Chiswick/Putney if you must have a tube, Barnes is well connected by train and excellent bus routes to the tube in Hammersmith. Some really good primary schools, villagey feel in first, second two more urban, but bigger shops. I don't think aircraft noise bothers most people in the area, they get used to it and it will be decades before the Heathrow expansion actually takes place.
Crouch End is like Barnes in North London, you'd need to decide which vibe you preferred ...
Aircraft noise is very light in Chiswick I barely notice it, but I'm origanally from Hayes so grew up with it much louder.
I think Richmond and twickenham are too far away from central London personally and Barnes is just quite boring to be honest. I would opt for hampstead X
If you are short term renting in Chiswick why not stay there? It's a lovely area and has numerous good schools, private and public. It's near the river and Richmond Park and very quick to get into central London. Far nicer than Hampstead with its over crowded High Street. Barnes is very villagey so not typically 'London" ime.
Good luck and welcome to London. Hope you'll be very happy here!
Benefit of Chiswick is that it is a lot closer to Heathrow if you are traveling back and forth a lot.
If you do go private, fees are considerably less here than in NYC. For Primary school they are about £12k a year as opposed to $35-40k in NYC.
I hear what people are saying about class sizes but in general, I am very happy with the state education my kids are getting. I wish there was less focus on standardised tests and homework but they spend a lot of time outside when they are younger and do a lot of creative activities. This is probably all different from school to school of course.
Highgate has three good state schools- St Michaels, highgate primary and Whitehall Park. For catchments look on local council websites.
By the way, don't worry too much about outstanding ones - ofsted rated good can be terrific, and the grades move around- ofsted has become more rigorous in recent years.
Last distances in haringey - so Highgate, muswell hill and crouch end:
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